Mr. Emeka C. Kalu, former governorship candidate in Abia State, and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, is the National Director, Special Duties, Peoples Democratic Party Youth Alliance (PDPYA), as well as Director General, Global Initiative for Good Governance. In this special interview with SIMPLE IKEM, he spoke on Atiku Abubakar’s loss at the Supreme Court, the Igbo presidency 2023 and other crucial issues. Excerpt:

TNE: You and your group were one of the major support groups for the Atiku/Obi ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election. How do you see his loss at the Supreme Court?

The word ‘loss’ in this context is relative. You are a Nigerian just like I am and we saw all that played out from the election conduct to the tribunal. We heard the reports from AU, UN and other important bodies from around the world over the outcome of the election.

Therefore, underlying beneath the word ‘loss’ are all that the Nigerian system has become under the present administration. It is up to us to be proud of it, or say things the way they are. Actually, Atiku did not lose, but democracy won and the people also won, having come out to make a statement of fact through their votes. But, it is unfortunate that the power grabbers of our nation could not allow their voices to be heard.

Yet, I am relieved that at the end of that process, the world was able to see the rot that has overtaken the Nigeria Judicial System. The world has seen the conquer of everything we hold dear, where impossibility was upheld for the interest of one man. But, Atiku remains unscathed, he is stronger and has also proven that he is a true democrat and incomparable leader. He allowed only the rule of law to guide his actions to the end. Monkeys and Baboons did not swim in blood. We supported him based on our conviction of his ability to steer Nigeria aright. As I speak now, I am happy we took that decision because we have been vindicated. Atiku did not lose, the people won.

TNE: Why did the Atiku’s camp think the case should have gone the other way at the Supreme Court bearing in mind that in the history of Nigeria, no candidate declared by INEC had lost a case at the apex court, moreso, as your principal was fighting against an incumbent?

In the history of Nigeria like you said, if the opposition has never won the incumbent, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, then we are doomed. This is not about incumbency and holding onto power by all means, this is about the precedence we are setting for our nation and the future we may be inclined to regret if nothing is done about it.

For instance, if I may accept the other anomalies, how would you explain the trend that was established by the Appeal Court that a man whose certificate is in question was “imminently” qualified to contest in an election to the extent of telling us that his experience is the only qualification, even when our constitution stated otherwise. Lawyers now have new citation to quote from. What about the disparity between “Mohammadu” and “Mohammed” in the certificate controversy? How would you address all these lacuna upheld by the men who had been presumed to be “Men of integrity?” Therefore, saying that incumbency is above the law in Nigeria is another way of upholding the rape on the judiciary and democracy by the Fourth Estate of the Realm. I want you to know it is not about who lost or who “presumably won”. But, it is about the anomaly that has been rationalised by the last hope of common masses. The future is uncertain.

TNE: Now that the Supreme Court has given its verdict, what do you think should be Atiku’s next line of action? Do you see him going for the 2023 presidential election, or retiring from active politics?

That decision lies solely with him, not me. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is the candidate to beat at any time and the belief I have in him as the man with the prerequisite experiences and political knowhow to galvanise Nigeria for the purpose of putting Nigeria on the path progress. In order words, 2023 is still far from today when we are still basking in the pains of what Nigeria has come to become. Yet, we cannot give up on Nigeria, knowing full well that power is transient. When the time comes and Atiku declares his intention to contest, I am assuring you that more Nigerians will gladly ‘Atikulate’ more than you have seen today. Trust me on this.

TNE: What do you think should be the way forward for the PDP?

I have always spoken on this in my recent interview and press statements. A house that is divided among itself can never stand. We have systematically nurtured our party on the threshold of “Individualism” as against ‘Party First”, which is the only way a party can stand the chance of making impact.

PDP is a party with the highest potentials and remains the largest party in Africa. We need to go back to our drawing board to redraw our approach to internal party structuring and unification. The party faithful should be “Party Men” who place interest of the party above individual interest. We should not always see PDP as just a platform to take over political power and dump her. We should always think of ways to strengthen her after and before the next election.

I saw a situation where the party abandoned ship with Atiku too early, leaving him to carry on alone as if the legal battle was his alone to fight. No support, no backup, nothing. But, it is a good thing that he never gave up to the end. We should learn our lessons from the 2019 experience or we may continue to play only opposition on end.

TNE: What is your take on the on-going campaign for 2023 Igbo Presidency?

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It is a step in the right direction because Igbo are part of the Nigeria project. It will be good if they are given the opportunity to man the affairs of the nation. You will agree with me that Igbo are enterprising people. If given the opportunity to lead this nation, Igbo as president will transform Nigeria’s fortunes in a matter of years. Igbo has been successful anywhere they find themselves. The same prowess can be translated into governance. I support Igbo Presidency, if it will help Nigeria move forward. But, I lay more emphasis on performance. I support giving the best heads the opportunity to move the nation ahead. We must always place emphasis on meritocracy over mediocrity. But, I know Igbo has the best men that can change Nigeria’s fortune for good.

TNE: Eastern Union (EU), a political pressure group of the old Eastern Region, in an effort to arouse interest in the Igbo presidency, has listed over 20 Igbo politicians and technocrats who qualify to fly the presidential flag come 2023. What do you think of the group’s efforts?

I will think of the group if only they can harness and articulate their cause. One of the problems of Igbo people producing the President is that we play politics of individualism and tribal alienation. We field too many candidates who think they are the best, thereby never considering sheathing our swords and bringing out one person that will carry the interest of many.

Also, we always fail to build bridge with other ethnic groups, forgetting that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic setting and the Igbo phobia of other Nigerians is a monster we must fight.

What is the essence of naming up to 20? What happens to doing your homework and selling one or two out of the lot to the Nigerians as well as making efforts to bridge the relationship with other regions? To me, I think the group can do more if their interest is really about Igbo projection for the presidency and not a plot to position themselves for the gains of 2023 using the popular demand of the people to their advantage. That is all I can say for now.

TNE: Why do you think the efforts of the group are yet to be well accepted by Ndigbo? Don’t you think Ndigbo should support such genuine effort to bring the Igbo presidency to the front burner?

The word ‘genuine’ is relative in this context. That is what I elaborated earlier. A group that wants its proposal to be acceptable would do their research and home work to sheave the chaff from the wheat. For instance, are 20 Igbo men going to become Nigeria President? No! Are only the Igbos going to contest for the position while the other tribes stand by and watch? No! So, why list 20 men when you could narrow it down to your best one or two and start marketing them. I am not saying that their effort is ill conceived. I am saying the method is not right. They will end up overwhelming Nigerians with confusion of close substitutes of their goods.

For instance, the Yoruba race has been talking about Bola Tinubu since 2015 and possibly Yemi Osinbajo, if what is being rumoured becomes reality. That gives them a focused options narrowed down to two men. During the 2015 and 2019 elections, the Hausa fielding and supported Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar to the letter until one emerged. For a while now, El-Rufai has been renting the air. Its either him, or they bring another and back him up 100%. So, when Igbo begin to talk about 20 men in a contest that will produce one leader among over 7,000 ethnic nationalities, it is far from reality. It is on this ground that I still insist that the vision is not yet clear.

If we don’t play the card well, the other people that play well will still win the game. It is as simple as that.

TNE: Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a northern political elite, has said that North would not allow an Igbo to rule until the Igbo assures North of their commitment to one Nigeria and that they could be trusted. What is your take on Junaid Mohammed’s utterances?

Junaid is a man known for much talks and I am sure he is entitled to his opinion on issues of national interest. Saying the North will not allow Igbo to rule is assuming that he owns Nigeria and decides who rules. That is a very wrong mindset in a nation that belongs to all of us and I disagree with that pettiness. This particular argument is the reason Nigeria has remained backwards close to 60years of independence. No tribe in Nigeria has paid greater price of One Nigeria more than the Igbos in every ramification of the word “Sacrifice”. So, it will be insensitive of any man or woman to stand up and claim commitment to One Nigeria as if it is a monopoly while sidelining the people paying more.

I don’t know his yardstick for such demand. But, this power hoax of mediocrity over integrity is what is holding us down. I am an Igbo man, but I supported Atiku, a Hausa man in 2019, because I saw him as qualified, not because he was an Igbo. So, we don’t need to prove anything to Junaid or anyone at that. All we need to do is to give and support our best. We know who are the real Nigerians who are committed to her good and we also know the people holding Nigeria to ransom thinking it is their right to decide who are Nigerian and who are not.

When Nigeria begin to make policies that gives every Nigeria the enabling environment to thrive irrespective of tribe and religion, then people like Junaid will stop being afraid of the Igbo. What is he afraid to lose if he worked for it? I said it eelier, the only problem is for the Igbo to articulate their interest, then the naysayers will rest.

TNE: Would you say that the rumoured presidential aspiration of APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, is right and proper when South-East is yet to have a taste of the Presidency in this political dispensation, when North, South West and South South had had their turn?

I think I touched this in the last question, but let me elaborate. Nigeria is a nation that is premised on the principle of “Federal Character” by our founding fathers and proponents of democracy. This principle though not directly enshrined in our constitution, made our nation balanced, considering the multi-ethnic nature of our nation. It is unfortunate that this principle has been trampled upon by the present administration, just like other things has been changed.

Having said that, the APC-Buhari government minds only few things as “their personal interest”. If not, even the APC should consider the inevitability of supporting the Igbo Presidency cause. But, the truth remains that Tinubu and anyone else for that matter has the right to contest, especially now that qualification to the position has become ‘based on your experience’. All I can say is that the Igbo should step up their game and let their voice be heard when the time comes. Nobody will hand over power to us. We must fight for it and win it. We should tell ourselves the truth always to help us articulate and project our cause.

TNE: How do you see the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari failed to transmit power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo when he recently travelled out of the country and his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, flew to UK with a bill for him to sign into law?

Your answer is rooted more in the boldness of Junaid caling on the Igbo (entire race) to give him assurance of one Nigeria as if Nigeria is his estate where others are tenants, who is he? The Northern Cabals think they are the owner of Nigeria and they are so power drunk that they don’t trust anyone, even their brother Atiku, because he is liberal and a democrat that believes in the rule of law. So, we are not surprised that Buhari refused to hand over to Osinbajo, his Vice of Yoruba extraction, because it is not the first time. He has created two Vice Presidents. While Osinbajo is the elected Vice President, Abba Kyari is the Administrative Vice President.

But, it is only incompetence that can breed such fear in a president. They prefer their result in a certain way and nothing must change it. New idea cannot be allowed to grow so that we must remain where we are. Osinbajo seems to have ideas of his own. So, he must not be given room again to apply them. We have become a stereotyped nation of individual estate. But, it cannot last forever.

TNE: The on-going land border closure by Nigeria has been having ripple effects across the West African countries. How do you see the development? Do you think the Federal Government should end the closure, which has been tentatively put at January next year?

I am seeing it like any other Nigerian see it. Our President has spoken and that is final. I heard Fintiri talking about eating only made in Nigeria rice. It is good and welcome development. But, where is the rice? He said Chinese eat only Chinese food. But, did China attain this state by shutting their border to the world? No! They did it by investing and engaging with other nations of the world, while growing their own food. They grew to a point of self-sufficiency before they started exporting and up till now, they have not closed their border to trade with other nations. So, I marvel at where our president and his men come up with these ideas they dish out to us. Or, do they see them in dreams? After the closure of rice importation, what have we started producing? Nothing. What is the government doing to have sufficient yield for the nation? When the right things are in place and the local producers compete well, considering the fact that the local rice is even richer than the imported ones, Nigerians will make their choices and rice importers will go out of business. This is a simple economic principle. Closing the border will not make our rice production to improve. It will only punish the masses while enriching the smugglers.

Let us also ban foreign medical trips and fix our hospitals. Let us ban fuel importation and fuel subsidy fraud. We will not improve our economy by banning the only thing helping the masses when we do not have alternative to offer. Let us improve on what we have; give it time to yield to compete and the foreign competitors will ban themselves. This is not rocket science.